Kaberle set to fly with stars

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

Tomas Kaberle thrives in a quiet province of noisy Leaf Nation.

He's not glib and flamboyant like Bryan McCabe, lacks the size of Hal Gill and the big pay stub of Pavel Kubina. But the low-key Kaberle, an alternate captain and one of the highest scoring defencemen in the National Hockey League, gets plenty of respect on his own team and subsequently from the league panel that picked the all-star game reserves.

He'll be the Leafs' representative in Dallas on Wednesday, the first time since Dave Ellett in 1991-92 that their lone pick will be a defenceman.

"I like my role on our team," Kaberle said before heading to Texas. "There's a lot of pressure in Toronto, but that's why I signed (a multi-year deal) last season. Because I like that."

Kaberle, who averages about 27 minutes a game, was not worried about missing out on the advantages of the four-day break, unlike his teammates. Winger Alex Steen will be accompanying him for the Young Stars game in Dallas.

"I'm very excited about going," Kaberle said. "I don't get to have the time off, but it won't be like playing real hard hockey with hitting. Hopefully there will be good setups and lots of scoring. It's all about entertaining.

"I'll be excited to meet everybody there. Obviously, I like to watch (Detroit's) Nick Lidstrom and the offensive style defencemen. It will be good to play with them and against them."

Kaberle was chosen for the 2002 all-star game in Los Angeles with Mats Sundin, getting one assist. But since then he has moved to an elite level of defencemen, reaching career highs in assists and points (67) last year, partnering McCabe as one of the busiest tandems in the league.

This season, he is threatening the slumping Sundin's hold on the team-points lead with 39 and remains remarkably resilient in health matters.

"Every year is a bit different," Kaberle said. "Last year was probably my best so far and I'm trying to keep it up. Hopefully, I can improve in some different areas. My teammates call me a quiet leader, but everyone is different. Hopefully I can follow it up on the ice."


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